M A I N   N E W S

Charges against Bhattal framed
Nishikant Dwivedi

Chandigarh, February 5
A local court today framed charges against Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal in a case of alleged misappropriation of Rs 20 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund during her brief tenure as Chief Minister.

The Special Judge, Mr R.S. Baswana, in a packed court room framed charges against Ms Bhattal under Section 409 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 13 (1) D of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

Talking to reporters outside the District Courts complex here soon after the framing of the charges, Ms Bhattal regretted that the state government did not help her in the case. “The state government should have helped me fight the case but it has not,” Ms Bhattal told reporters.

Ms Bhattal, however, insisted there were no differences between her and the Chief Minister. “The Punjab Congress is united and we will jointly contest and win the coming Lok Sabha elections,” said the Deputy Chief Minister.

When asked if she would be resigning from the Cabinet in the wake of being charge-sheeted, she shot back: “Why should I resign?” Ms Bhattal said Capt Amarinder Singh and Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani were charge-sheeted but did not resign.

The complainant in the case, Mr Balwant Singh Dhillon had alleged that Ms Bhattal was involved in the embezzlement of Rs 20 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund in 1996. An FIR in the matter was registered against Ms Bhattal by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau on the complaint of Mr Dhillon.

Ms Bhattal, who was present in the court, said she did not plead guilty to the charges. The Special Judge fixed March 22 as the date for the commencement of proceedings against the Deputy Chief Minister.

Counsel for Ms Bhattal today moved an application for a stay on the proceedings in the case which was rejected by the Special Judge, who observed that the submissions made in the application had already been rejected.

On the other hand, counsel for the complainant, Mr P.N. Lekhi, moved an application for verification of the receipts, which was rejected by the court.

Before pleading ‘’not guilty’’, Ms Bhattal stated in the court that she was innocent since the state government had found the receipts pertaining to the grant of Rs 20 lakh.

But the Special Judge said there was nothing substantial in her plea, which could be helpful to put a stay on the proceedings.

On January 27, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had rejected the Punjab Government’s pleas for deferring the framing of charges against Ms Bhattal. The charges were to be framed in the local court on January 28 but the judge was on leave and the case was adjourned for today.


She need not quit, says CM
Prabhjot Singh & Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh/Bathinda, February 5
“She need not resign,” says Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh as his Deputy and Agriculture Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, refused to step down on moral grounds after a Chandigarh court framed charges against her in a corruption case.

“Why should I resign ? Did Capt Amarinder Singh resign after charges were framed against him in a criminal defamation case some months ago?,” quipped Mrs Bhattal, quoting several other instances where people holding high public offices stayed on in spite of being charge-sheeted in criminal cases.

The framing of charges may make the Opposition browbeat the Congress on the corruption issue in the coming Lok Sabha elections.

Various courts and central agencies, including the CBI, framed charges against Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Home Minister, Lal Krishan Advani, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh, and former Chattisgarh Chief Minister, Ajit Jogi.

“I would not have taken a minute to step down if there was an iota of truth in the charges. The entire case against me is motivated,” she said, accusing the public prosecutor of working against her.

The Chief Minister, who was in Bathinda, said the “framing of charges does not mean that she is guilty of embezzlement. The framing of charges is part of a legal procedure and not a verdict. Mrs Bhattal is a senior member of the Punjab Congress Legislature Party and will continue in her position as Deputy Chief Minister.”

Though Mrs Bhattal made no secret of her displeasure, saying that “the state government did not help me in the case. Even today we asked for the record to be produced in the court.”

“Why should I be penalised or punished for the fault of a babu. If they could not keep the receipts properly, I cannot be blamed for it. Unfortunately, no steps were taken to protect me from harassment and humiliation, especially when the government knows that I am not at fault. I have full faith in the judiciary and I will come out clean in the case,” she said.

“The framing of charges has nothing to do with the unity both within the Pradesh Congress Committee and the Punjab Congress Legislature Party (CLP).

Though she refused to disclose her future line of action, sources close to her say that she may move a petition for the transfer of the case outside Punjab and Chandigarh.

Mrs Bhattal said that her case would have no impact in the Lok Sabha elections as “everyone knows who all are behind this case. We are united and work hard for the success of our candidates in the coming elections.”

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